Tuesday, April 19, 2011

RIP Grete Waitz

This is incredibly sad:


I had the good fortune of actually lining up next to her a couple of times at the 10K Zoo Run in Denver in the mid-1980s. She'd travel out to Colorado in the fall back then for some altitude training. She'd say, "Oh, I'm just jogging today," and would still run 35 minutes, and place near the top of a national class field.

She was totally cool and gracious.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Running in a Glass Vessel

At this stage in my life running is like treading lightly in a glass room, where you don't want to get too riled up, lest something shatters and you're left with only pieces.

The ceiling is my aerobic capacity, or lack thereof. The conundrum of an aging masters runner is that the memory is still there, and pure aerobic endurance and anaerobic threshold can be almost as good or better than ever. Thus, cranking out an 18 mile run at 50--be it 7,8,9 minute per mile pace--is often no more difficult than it was at 20. And holding a threshold-type pace (say 80 to 90% of maximum heart rate) is also not too much of a problem for trained masters runners.

What breaks you is the ability to speed up (even just little faster than threshold) and to hold that for any amount of time. Push past a heart rate of 170 BPM for more than a couple of minutes, and your race comes crashing down.

And now the glass floor for me is that knee. It feels like glass. At 25 or or 30 miles a week now, with no speed work, the joint feels pretty good. But I can kind of tell as soon as I bump it up some more, and start some speed work at 5K pace or faster that floor--the interface of my right femur and tibia--can crack, if not shatter. Again. I want to avoid that this year, and that's the rub.

Train hard enough to get in shape, to maybe push that ceiling up a bit, and presto, you're injured again!

What about the walls you might ask? That's the feasible distances and types of races that I might do. Last year I got hurt by doing a set of 5X 300 meters at mile pace on the track a few days before the Midnight Sun Run, and in 2009 it hit at about 12 miles into my last 18 miler, about 2 weeks before NYC Marathon. So this I'm planning on having a season that includes 5K to 1/2 marathon, and it would be wise to stay off the courses with steep and gnarly downhill sections.

So that's a bit of a prelude to this weekend's Beat Beethoven 5K. This is the earliest I've raced since 2003, and over the past 25 years or so, only a couple times have I raced before mid-April. But as a first timer for this one, I enjoyed it.

I felt simultaneously good and awful on Saturday. Lined up on the front row not seeing many of the usual local suspects, and thinking hmmm maybe top 5 today? Then everybody and their brother and sister blasted out of the start like a snot rocket shot out of a sneeze cannon on a cold day. I was no better than 25 or 30th at the base of the big hill, 2 min into the race and already 100 meters back.

Worked my way up, and was in the top 10 by the top of the long hill on Tanana Loop (skiing really helps for hill climbing), and the mile split. Two young bucks passed me in mile 2 and 3. Other than that I simply held on, fighting oxygen debt, but trying to keep it going by striding out on the downhills. However, no speedwork = no turnover (as if I ever had that fast thing going anyway!)

The overall damage:
17:51 for 8th place, 1st in AG and 1st masters too. Nothing to write home about but blogging is forgivable.

Knee intact and not too achy (that's a big one).

The highlight, however was after. Really exciting to see Tamara, a former elite runner who has had had MS for 20 years, run 24:07 for 3rd in her age class and looking comfortable. She also to has to operate in a glass vessel, and it's a smaller one. A soon as her core heats up just a little, her motor ability slows down, and her muscles start to act as if powered by a weak battery. Nevertheless, she's now running better than in years and lets hope that continues.

Finally, being Patriots Day, good job to the Boston Runners. Rochey (whom I've been coaching for the past two years) ran a PR 3:03:20!!! She was aiming for sub 3, but it was not quite her day even though she paced it perfectly. And my local 50-something friends Andy Holland (3:05), Kent Karns (3:29), and Bruce Gard (3:46) all had good showings. Local kids in their 30s, Charles and Jenny Mahlen went 3:01 and 3:24.

Cannot beleive the winning time 2:03:02 by Mutai!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Transitioning, transitioning, (spring will arrive some day, really it will)

Had a brisk run today, underdressed from head to toe. 20 F and a little breeze from the north. My little fleece running hat didn't quite cover my ears, I only had one light t-shirt under my pullover running top, running shorts, and ski pants, but no layers. Bottomed out with thin running socks. No slips or falls, but I did step into an ice bath of a puddle on the last quarter mile.

With 2 feet of snow on the ground, ice patches stretching half the length of a football field, slush, and some dry pavement, we have it all right now. Not complaining, although winter is hanging on it's actually very nice to be out this April. I have run about every other day since the last week of March and while not feeling spry or springy, all's well, and I'm up to 6 or 7 miles, with some surges/pickups/tempo running tossed in to keep it interesting.

Got my six month knee checkup the yesterday, and we're heading/hoping for a tract of management and maintenance for osteoarthritis that covers the long haul--maybe several years. This will take smart running (cross training, lower mileage, fewer track sessions, more hill reps, etc.), a bit of pain tolerance and pain management, as well as ongoing PT to keep my muscles strong. The good Dr. said no need for a return visit unless something goes off.

Running marathons may well be in my past, and I'm okay with that. Unlike skiing, the marathon never was my best event. And months of training and walking around with stiff sore legs after those 18 to 21 milers was never all that fun. Nor was chafing.

Nevertheless, these days in most running circles/communities--if you're over 22--the marathon where all the glory lies. Well, after making my debut and follow-up in 1983, I went 16 years without running a marathon and another 5 years(most of it injured) before moving here and doing the Equinox a few months later. So if there is no glory, there will be no glory.

I still like the 10K (wish we had a couple more choices here) and love the half marathon. 5Ks are torture, but that which makes you suffer makes you stronger/tougher for the longer events. We'll see about the local trail runs, most of those have wicked downhills which might not be conducive to staying healthy. Of course I plan to keep healthy to run in the cross country series that we are planning, at least in some of the races.

Meanwhile, skiing's still here and will be for a while, so just taking it light and easy. Mostly classic because skating seems harder on the knee than running right now. Klister rocks! (Tamara hates it because I tend to leave little klister prints here and there).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

April, Love Me or Love Me Not?

April is the best and worst of times for aerobically induced athletes around here. It actually offers some of the best track skiing of the year, and usually the best back country opportunities. Conditions can be variable, but the snow is fast and temps are moderate not unlike New England in February or the Mid-Atlantic in January.

I kind of wish we had a few more fun-type ski events in during April. A winter quad, tri, or duathlon mixing some combination of skiing, snowshoeing, running, or cycling. I saw a Facebook posting the other day that a group of locals actually went out and did a quadrathlon last weekend at UAF, within an hour or two of when I was out there on my own wishing for the same thing. Apparently I didn't get the memo. Or simply disregarded it, like I do with at least half of the ski or running club listserve postings.

Meanwhile, ski club president Mike O'Brien just dropped a note on last week's blog post, about an unofficial contest to see who can ski the latest in the year. That's a great idea. Maybe we should have a local ski trail category and one for the state/interior. Then again, if you're APU Nordic, you can get helicoptered onto a glacier in June, July, August.

Meanwhile, runners here go bat sh*t crazy this time of year. The roads and sidewalks are a mess and you risk a fall with accompanying chipped tooth or broken wrist with practically every step, the skiers still rule over the UAF and Birch Hill trails (although I've seen RCN-types sneaking on for the Sunday runs a week or so ahead of the April 15 NO RUNNING cutoff). Tsk tsk. Makes me want to use my ski poles to poke some leaks in some folks' Nike Air shoes.

Moreover, the high school running are still snow covered, although I haven't seen Lathrop's this week.

And when you get the inevitable weather relapse, like today when it's in the teens, windy, with some flurries, the runners tend to whine and get all morose. But it's AAAAAppriiiiilllll! Can't winter eennnnnnnnd alreaddddyyyyyy?????

Now, we all know that I'm kind of lame and half baked, over the hill as a skier and runner but, after taking some downtime from the ski marathons, I kind of like this transitory period. So as long as we have snow, I'll tread lightly about every other day and do an easy ski on the opposite days. While my knee held up remarkably well through March, the two skate marathons, 100,000 ft of vertical at Alyeska, and a little running took a cumulative toll and it's been acting inflamed this week. So classic skiing, klister and all, has been a great rehab this week.

A glacier ski would be fun too, but that takes forethought and hours of driving. Maybe/maybe not. But, to tie this up neatly, break up or not April is alright!